A daily routine for me and my daughter is to take a walk through this park. It is a remarkable place of beauty, as you can see by this photograph. There are geese, ducks, a rooster, and some deer that are in a fenced area in the middle of the park. There is always something to take a photograph of. The weather has been getting really nice as of late so we find more and more people walking their dogs, sunbathing in the chaise chairs along the canals, and moms with their children in the playground area.
My daughter has a remarkable gift of grabbing attention from strangers who will approach us to get a closer look. This is nice because before I found people to be rather closed off from any kind of contact. On this day in particular we were making our way out of the park when an older woman came towards us with two dogs. The dogs led her over. One had white and auburn colored patches and the other with white and black patches. I held their faces in my hands as they licked me. My daughter was looking towards the woman. We began to speak to each other. I asked about the dogs[ in Dutch], “What are their names?”. She started speaking slowly . The sounds she made were muffled and slow. I watched and listened closely. She pointed to her ears and said the Dutch word for deaf. She continued to tell me their names. The red one, “Rrr-o-sie” and I repeated it. Luckily it wasn’t a complicated Dutch name. She smiled and shook her head Yes. Then she pointed to the black one, “Mmaa-ch ch-o,” she said. She used some body language to show he is very male. And I said, “Ah Macho!” She smiled and shook her head again. I told her that Dutch is not my first language and asked if she could understand me okay. She again shook her head and said slowly, while pointing to her mouth, “Yes I can read lips and you speak clearly.” Then she told me she must get going because the dogs were getting restless. I smiled and thanked her for letting us pet them.
I thought about this exchange and got a little emotional for a moment. For the last few years I’ve never had such an experience like this one. This woman had every reason to resist communicating with anyone because she is deaf and it’s clearly harder for her to make the words come. At the same time I could be the same in that I don’t speak Dutch fluently. Yet we both took the time to have a friendly exchange. By being patient and listening to one another we were able to understand each other. There wasn’t anything in this moment that was important, really. But it showed me that if two people really want to communicate to one another they can. No matter what the obstacles.